When I wrote about the original Legend of Zelda, I discussed how it was inspired by earlier Japanese action role-playing games like Xanadu or Hydlide, but innovated by removing most of the classic role-playing mechanics such as experience points and leveling. But the sequel, which drops the “legend of” and opts simply for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, is almost entirely different. This was on purpose. Other than the project lead and writer, the development team was entirely new, and the action gameplay shifted from the original’s top-down viewpoint to side-scrolling platforming. There’s still some top-down exploration in the form of a world map, similar to those in the Dragon Quest games, but the bulk of the game is played in the side-on view.
I remember this shift somewhat confounded my group of friends when we played it as kids, and the game never captured our imagination as strongly as the original did. One thing that I didn’t remember, however, is that Zelda II brings back some of the role-playing mechanics that its predecessor had excised. Titular protagonist Link earns experience points from defeating enemies, and upon accumulating enough can level up his attack, magic power, and defense. The series famous for establishing its own action-adventure genre, distinct from action role-playing games, had become an action role-playing game once more.